It usually takes a new triathlete at least four years to reach world elite status, but Gwen Jorgensen did it in less than a year and a half.
Gwen Jorgensen was enjoying the best race of her life. Her swim and bike legs finished, she was running light and fast and strong. She trailed only one competitor, Great Britain’s Helen Jenkins.
With the fourth and final lap to go, it never crossed her mind that she was about to make history. Seventeen months ago, she was a full-time accountant. Now this.
Minutes after crossing the finish line in second place, Jorgensen remembered all the details, except the most important one: She had just won a spot on the 2012 U.S. Olympic team.
“I remember turning around and watching the other girls, I remember [U.S. teammate] Sarah Groff coming in and I remember her crossing the finish line and going up to her and saying, ‘Congratulations, you’re on our Olympic team!'” Jorgensen said.
“Going into the race, I knew the qualifications. I knew if I was top-nine or the first or second American, I would qualify, but during the race it never actually crossed my mind. I think I got into such a good zone, I was just racing.”
That race in London was six months ago. A bigger race in London looms just five months away. When the women’s Olympic triathlon is held on the same course on Aug. 4, Jorgensen, 25, can only hope for a repeat performance.
“Honestly, it’s still kind of a shock for me when I wake up in the morning,” she said. “It feels surreal for me. It’s something that keeps me motivated, though, and focused, which is amazing. It’s just a really good blessing to have this upcoming year.”
Read more: Espn.com